Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian (OLD)

Banker of Men



Matthew 4:18-22

How many of you are familiar with the phrase “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men?” How many of you know what that means? My problem with that statement is that I’m really not much of a fisherman. Are there others in the room who either have never been fishing or don’t really enjoy it? I don’t hate fishing. I loved time on a river or lake or ocean and the beauty of the surroundings and being with friends. I even enjoy catching fish. But, I’m not a fisherman. Real fishermen are happy to get up before dawn and be cold and rock back and forth for hours, even without a bite. Yea, I’m not a real fisherman.

So, when I read Jesus saying, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”, it isn’t immediately motivating. My heart doesn’t beat with enthusiasm. What does it actually mean? Does it include metaphorically baiting hooks and luring people to church? Let’s face it; from the fish’s point of view fishing isn’t that attractive a strategy for reaching people.

It’s a shame because Jesus is making us a far better offer than it first appears to be. In fact, it’s the greatest offer we can be given and its unfortunate that we miss it. Let’s read the actual text from Matthew 4:18-22 and they see if we can unpack it a bit.

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

The key to understanding this text is to understand who Simon and Andrew were. They were not just fishermen as an occupation. They were fishermen as their identity.  Their father and grandfather were fisherman. They lived in a fishing village with other fishermen. The Sea of Galilee was their office where they worked ten hours a day, and probably most weekends. Their friends and coworkers were fishermen or the families of fishermen. Their language was peppered with fishing vocabulary and their seasons, holidays and daily activities were grounded in fishing. Fishing was not just an occupation, it was their being.

Jesus comes along and says, in effect, follow me and you will never fish again. Follow me and the way your life is wrapped up in fishing now is the way it will be wrapped up in my work from now on. He could have said, follow me and your entire way of life will change. More importantly for us, the way we think about life, about success, seasons, schedules, family and friends, will change.  Just look at Peter’s life after this. Turn to Act’s 2:14 on page 1004, Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! There is nothing remotely like fishing in that experience. In chapter 4, he and John are thrown into jail for preaching. In chapter 10, his entire way of thinking about God, faith and action is shaken to the core in an interaction with a man named Cornelius. In chapter 12 he is thrown into prison again only to be set free by an angel and return to a house full of people praying for him. None of that sounds like fishing on the Sea of Galilee?

But it does sound like his new occupation had become his identity. His friends and coworkers are involved in the same work. His vocabulary has changed. He is still bold, strong, persevering, and even tenacious about what he is doing, probably exactly the way he was when he was fishing. But it has all been redirected. It’s as if he has come to have a different perspective on life and that his needs are met in different ways than before. Listen to what he says in 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Doesn’t sound like a fisherman at all. But, it does sound like a person who has found ultimate fulfillment and identity. The passion and strength with which he once cast nets is the same passion and strength he used to cast God’s love and truth.

So, if you have no interest in being a fisher of men, good. God has no interest in making you one. God doesn’t need more fishermen. God needs what you are and what you can become. I know because he has been working in your life to make you uniquely who you are. That’s what the psalmist meant when he wrote Psalm 139:13, 14, 16, for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I am fearfully and wonderfully made; ...16 All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. God is not looking to recruit another fisherman. He is looking for someone like you.

I have a friend who is a banker. He has been one for as long as I have known him. I can only scratch the surface of how different he is from me. With my checkbook, I would make sure that I had an extra $100 in my account so I knew checks wouldn’t bounce. My banker friend gets frustrated if he can’t balance his checkbook closer than ten cents. He and I and a third friend were going off on a men’s weekend together and the third guy, our richest friend, had booked the hotel on his American Express card. An hour before we left, the third guy bailed on us. When the banker and I got to the hotel, he started to get out his credit card and calculator and began to estimate what the cost would be now divided by two instead of three. I told the hotel clerk, leave it on the American Express card.

What good is it to tell my friend the banker, follow Jesus and he will make you a fisher of men? None. But, I can tell you this, Jesus Christ has turned my friend into a banker of men. He has served on more non-profit boards and more years as an elder on session then most people I know. He applies the same level of detail and care to his family and friends that he applies to his checking account, carefully assuring that everything is taken care of. His passion for clarity gives him laser focus the ministries he serves which has meant so much to so many people. Here is one of the most important things. You know that the banking industry has been in tumultuous change for years. For those in the industry it can feel like free fall. My friend has been a caring, thoughtful, non-anxious person throughout all the changes in his bank and his career. He has been a Godly presence for his employees and employers.

His life is more full and rich than it could have been any other way, and that is not to say that he hasn’t had at least his share of burdens and sorrows. He has been successful but his identity is not in being a banker or working in a skyrise office building striving for a corner office. He is a follower of Jesus and it has made him a fulfilled banker of men. What is Jesus inviting you to become?

Let’s take a quick look at two elements of this invitation. Nothing in the Bible is accidental. The authors include everything for a reason. In the case of our text, Matthew describes two identical events back to back. One would have been enough but he tells the same thing twice so we ought to pay attention to what happens. The first point is in verses 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.  And then again in verse 21. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.

Jesus called them. He didn’t convince them, beg them, explain things to them, offer a time for questions and answers. He makes a clear, direct invitation but nothing more. Jesus calls, our response determines our future. Follow or don’t. Those are our choices. There were people who didn’t follow Jesus but just sort of hung around. He knew he was popular to some because he could feed or heal them. But those people didn’t stick around. They saw Jesus, and maybe benefited from him, even believed lots of things about him but they hadn’t heard his call. Have you heard Jesus call you?  Follow me and I will make your life the richest, most fulfilling life you can possibly imagine. In fact, you can’t imagine it. It will also include surrender, misunderstanding, disappointment, maybe fear, loss. He isn’t offering to make us kings, he is offering to make us followers in his kingdom. Have you heard him call? Have you heard him recently?

The second important thing in this text is in verse 20, At once they left their nets and followed him. And in verse 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus invited them to follow and then, I can only imagine, it seems that he walks off, never looking back. It wasn’t an intellectual challenge he was giving them. It was literal. Come follow me, and I am going that way. You can’t follow Jesus and not go the direction he is going. Followers of Jesus are followers because at some time in their life Jesus called them and they left what they were doing and followed him. Have you ever done that?

As I finish up, let me address a practical problem with this verse and our ability to apply it. Ninety nine percent of us can’t actually drop what we are doing, leave where we live, and go somewhere for at least three years. For example, my friend the banker, my example of a person living out this text, is still a banker, still living with his family. He didn’t leave. The point of the story is not that we give up everything that we are but that everything we are becomes available and under the direction of Jesus.

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